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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush: U.N. Credibility at Stake

Aired September 19, 2002 - 10:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All that of course, the hot topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, as well, as from the White House, where White House President George Bush is meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell. Just moments ago, they had taped discussions in front of reporters there, talking about perhaps what Secretary of State Powell might be talking about when he testifies in front of the House committee on international affairs a little bit later on today, and meeting at the White House, they're likely to be discussing exactly what kind of immediate action may be recommended in that resolution. The White House wants that resolution to go to Congress, at least by next Thursday.
But perhaps, some of that wrangling will be taking place a little bit on the Hill today, as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will also be testifying a little bit later on today before Senate Arms Services Committee, we heard him yesterday. He made it very clear that it is time for Congress to get behind the president and go ahead and endorse the military invasion of Iraq.

Let's listen in on what President Bush had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning. I appreciate the secretary of state coming by to brief the vice president and me and Condoleezza Rice about our progress in working with the United Nations, convincing the United Nations Security Council to firmly deal with a threat to world peace.

Before we talk about that, I do want to express our condolences to those who lost their life in Israel. It's been back-to-back suicide bombings. We strongly condemn terror. We strongly condemn violence. And we continue to send our message to the good people of that region, that if you're interested in peace, that if you want people to be able to grow up in a peaceful world, all parties must do everything they can to reject and stop violence.

At the United Nations Security Council, it is very important that the members understand that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake, that the Security Council must be firm in its resolve to deal with a true threat to world peace -- and that is Saddam Hussein. But the United Nations Security Council must work with the United States and Britain and other concerned parties to send a clear message that we expect Saddam to disarm.

BUSH: And if the United Nations Security Council won't deal with the problem, the United States and some of our friends will. That's the message the secretary of state has delivered forcefully, it's a message that he will continue to carry.

And, Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your hard work. You're doing a fine job. And we're proud of your efforts.

I'll be glad to answer a few calls -- answers, starting with Ron (ph).

QUESTION: How many of our friends are willing to join the United States in this effort?

BUSH: Ron (ph), I think time will tell. I think you're going to see a lot of nations -- that a lot of nations love freedom. They understand the threat. They understand that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake. They heard me loud and clear when I said, "Either you can be the United Nations, a capable body, a body able to keep the peace, or you can be the League of Nations." We're confident that people will follow our lead.

Campbell (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President...

BUSH: Good to see you, Campbell (ph) for starters. Glad you're here. Finally showed up.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

The chief weapons inspectors (OFF-MIKE) Security Council (OFF- MIKE) already getting some reports that we just talked to Iraq and said they're limiting access to certain sites.

QUESTION: Are these reports true? And do you think...

BUSH: I haven't gotten a report from what he intends to say, but here, let me give you just some general observations: First of all, there are no negotiations to be held with Iraq. They have nothing to negotiate. They're the people who said that they would not have weapons of mass destruction. The negotiations are over. It is up to the U.N. Security Council to lay out resolutions that confirms what Iraq has already agreed to, see.

Secondly, I don't trust Iraq, and neither should the free world. For 11 years, they have deceived the world. They have said, "We'll conform to resolutions." They never conformed to resolutions. They never conformed to the agreement that they laid out 11 years ago; 16 times they've defied security resolutions. And so, the burden of proof is -- must be placed squarely on their shoulders.

BUSH: But there's no negotiations about whether or not they've been telling the truth or not.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you going to send Congress your proposed resolution today?

BUSH: I am.

QUESTION: Are you asking for a blank check, sir?

BUSH: I am sending a suggested language for a resolution, that I've asked for Congress to support, to enable the administration to keep the peace, and we look forward to a good constructive debate in Congress.

I appreciate the fact that the leadership recognizes we've got to move before the elections. I appreciate the strong support we're getting from both Republicans and Democrats, and I look forward to working with them.

QUESTION: How important is it that...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: That'll be part of the resolution -- authorization to use force. If you want to keep the peace, you've got to have the authorization to use force. This will be -- it's is a chance for Congress to indicate support. It's a chance for Congress to say, "We support the administration's ability to keep the peace." That's what this is all about.

QUESTION: Well, will you...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Yes, that's the policy of the government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: In order to keep the peace, and concerning Iraq, President Bush says he is sending suggested language for resolution and he looks forward to hearing the debate that will take place on Capitol Hill.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is there at the White House, also listening in to the comments coming from the president. But the president is also expressed some concern, Kelly, that there may be some delay in a Congressional movement as result of Iraq's latest offer.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president does not seem as concerned, Fredricka. He got a big showing of support from the congressional leaders yesterday who gave them a commitment that there would be votes before lawmakers left for the November elections. The timetable seems to be on a fasttrack, likely to have votes in early October, and the administration hopes if the president gets votes in Congress, that could send a message to some skeptical United Nations allies, because you heard the president's very strong words. He used most of this session to try to send the message to skeptics to say, look, now that Saddam Hussein is letting weapons inspectors back inside of Iraq, perhaps we do not need any new U.N. Security Council Resolution, the president's message was very clear. He said that the credibility of the United Nations is at stake, and then here, he said the message again, if the U.N. won't deal with Iraq, he says that the U.S. and some of our friends will. So the president really trying to put pressure, Fredricka, on countries such as Russia and France, countries which have indicated perhaps there is not a need for a new U.N. resolution. The president saying, oh yes, there is a need, and he wants their support right now, or he says, the U.S. will act alone -- Fredricka.

And, Kelly, from this resolution, President Bush is really asking for Congress to agree to any kind of movement and action regardless of whether the U.N. would be behind them collectively.

WALLACE: That is a very key point. This president wants maximum flexibility, and you heard him confirm there. He wants the authority to use force, the authority to use force even in the if the U.N. does not enforce this. We understand in yesterday's meeting Senator Democratic leader Tom Daschle raised the point of Congress, backing the use force only in conjunction with the United Nations.

Sources telling my colleague John King that the president said that would be totally unacceptable. He wants the authority to act even if the U.N. does not go along with his way -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Kelly Wallace from the White House, thank you very much.

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